Before her daughter Asa was born, Kamadie Traore called her Blessin. She decided on her prenatal name with the help of her visiting nurse, Karen Lewis, to help Traore form a bond with the baby that was she was carrying in her 19-year-old body.
National teen pregnancy rates are in decline, but as of 2008 nearly 7 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 19 become pregnant. First-time young mothers are often stretched thin in a multitude of ways -- like Traore, who was working and attending community college when she found out she was pregnant with Asa.
In all but eight states across the country, low-income young moms are learning how to relate to pregnancy and motherhood through the Nurse-Family Partnership that assigns a nurse to a new mom. The free service is available to low-income moms who are fewer than 28 weeks pregnant with their first child and match up a nurse through the child's second year.
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Traore was Lewis’s first client since joining the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, a not-for-profit organization contracted by the city to operate the program in the Bronx. While doing research on what resources New York City could offer to her, Traore found the program and enrolled.
Born in Mali, West Africa, Traore is the eldest of six siblings. She said her mother's parenting style included very little open communication. She met her husband in a traditional Malian way, but wanted motherhood to be different.
"I wanted to be able to have that relationship with my daughter where we can communicate with each other, where I can say I love you without awkwardness," she said. With Lewis by her side (and via text) she learned a different, more nurturing side of parenting.
Growing up in a house where her parents rarely engaged with children, Traore didn't have an easy time caring for Asa at first. But soon she felt more confident and even started sharing with her mother the things she learned from Lewis.
"I told her about the benefits of breastfeeding," Traore recounted. "I'm taking the opportunity to build a better relationship [with her]."
Traore is now seven months pregnant with her second child and still texts Lewis for advice. When Lewis speaks of Traore, it is with warmth and respect: "She was and she will forever be special."
What to expect
The national Nurse-Family Partnership provides guidance on many aspects of motherhood, including:
What is expected during pregnancy
Nutrition, health and contraception
Bonding techniques with your fetus
Connecting and communicating with your child; breastfeeding
Life and career guidance
Learn more at www.vnsny.org